Regulators silent so far as Andrew Iyer’s new business looks and feels a lot like a law firm — but he’s careful in the fine print to say it isn’t
A man convicted for “one of the worst cases of fraud” ever seen in the solicitors’ profession has launched a “legal services” business that could come to the attention of regulators and even the police.
Nathan Andrew Iyer, a former energy lawyer at City of London shipping specialist firm Ince & Co, was struck off the roll in 2012 for frauds involving more than £2.8 million. He was convicted the next year and sentenced to a four-year-eight-month prison stretch.
But Iyer — who once dated the daughters of film legend Michael Caine and England football hero Bobby Moore — is now released from the nick and back in the Square Mile law game.
He has launched IYLegal, “a legal services firm based in the City of London”.
According to the business’s website, IYLegal — not to be confused with Leicester commercial property outfit IY Legal — provides “English law advice and services to the commodities, energy, insurance, international trade, logistics, offshore, renewables, shipping and transport sectors.” The blurb goes on: “We assist clients across their business activities, providing a wide range of legal services and business support”.
Indeed, not only does the IYLegal marketing pitch look and feel like that of a City law firm, its website is actually slicker and better than many.
The site continues:
Our combination of first class legal expertise and experience, a thorough understanding of our clients’ businesses and the sectors they operate in, accompanied by a strategic approach to problem solving, enables us to achieve excellent results for our clients and deliver real value for money.
The marketing jargon then moves towards a crucial disclaimer. “How legal services are provided in the UK has changed,” it reads. “Very often clients do not have to instruct solicitors and incur their significant fees. In our specialised areas we are a highly skilled, cost effective, business focused alternative to a traditional firm of solicitors.”
There is a further disclaimer listed under “Legal & Regulation Notices” which states, among other things, that “Iyer & Co Law LP is not a firm of solicitors or an ABS and is not authorised or regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.” It continues:
Iyer & Co Law LP is not entitled to carry on Reserved Legal Activities as per the Act, provide a Regulated Claims Management Service or give financial advice. Andrew Iyer is not a solicitor.
Elsewhere on the website, the delicate subject of its founder’s professional qualifications are discussed:
While he was practising as a solicitor, Andrew Iyer was described by Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession as: ‘an extraordinarily fine lawyer with the full portfolio of skills, from negotiating contracts to claims, disputes and arbitrations — he’s the whole package!’
No mention of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing on 7 February 2012, which found: “Clients of the firm were defrauded by the respondent over a considerable period of time and extremely large sums were involved. It was in fact as bad a case of fraud as the present tribunal had seen.”
And certainly no mention on the IYLegal site of Iyer’s spot of porridge.
Section 21 of the Solicitors Act 1974 stipulates that it is a criminal offence to pretend to be a solicitor. And clearly, Iyer is confident that his new business and its website are within the law.
While the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is the most likely complainant to the police in cases where the legislation may have been breached, in fact anyone can initiate a prosecution.
Of course, any decision to prosecute needs to be made on a reasonably secure chance of success. That would mean taking a view on how the public would interpret specific marketing phrases.
The SRA would not comment on whether it had a view on the IYLegal site.
Iyer has been one of the legal profession’s most colourful characters. In addition to his high-profile love life — and his inclination to fleece large amounts of money from his former clients and partnership — Iyer is the author of two legal thrillers.
“The Betrayed”, published in 2007, tells the story of a provincial family lawyer, who for some reason is tasked with tracking down a missing French masterpiece painting. Meanwhile, 1995’s “Domino Run” involves a London lawyer being dragged into a complicated murder mystery.
It is not known whether Iyer whiled away his time behind bars penning another thriller.
However, online City partner chat room, Roll on Friday, pointed out that during his fraud trial it emerged that Iyer had attempted to secure an OBE through a ludicrous contrivance.
He invented a cancer specialist who wrote to the great and the good claiming to be a huge fan of Iyer, not least because he had raised some £1.8 million for research. But funnily enough, he hadn’t.
Update: 12 October — Since the publication of this article, Andrew Iyer has supplied Legal Cheek with this comment:
Before re-entering the legal services sector, I took extensive, comprehensive advice from Counsel on what legal work I can and cannot now do and how I should describe myself and my new business. When setting up IY Legal and its website I have followed that advice completely, including a clear statement approved by Counsel that I am not a solicitor, am not SRA regulated and cannot undertake Reserved Legal Activities – which statement is also included on all IY Legal emails and correspondence. I deeply regret and am ashamed of my past wrongdoings and have tried to do everything I can to make amends for these. During my time in prison, I threw myself into the rehabilitation process which I am the better for having experienced. Having served my sentence, all I am trying to do now is get back to work to support myself and my family and be a positive member of society.